Indians In; Rocket, Wind, Nugget Also Through

The International Championship qualifiers got under way on Tuesday as the third tournament to use the flat 128 format began in Barnsley.

With only one qualifying round needed before being able to reach the venue stage, it offers increasing opportunities for lower ranked players to make strides in the game.

However, the first day of qualifiers, which pits the top 64 in the world rankings against the bottom 64, did not produce many significant shocks.

Indeed, the two notable players in the lower bracket of the rankings who ended up progressing were the same duo who I mentioned as being the danger pair in yesterday’s preview article.

India’s Aditya Mehta and Pankaj Advani have for the last couple of seasons at times produced excellent results but have so far failed to break inside the top 64.

That ought to change for next season with both already provisionally inside the world’s top money list – as the tour moves from points to earnings from 2014.

The compatriots were up against a pair of two-time ranking events champions, as Mehta overcame Ricky Walden 6-2 while Advani ousted Dominic Dale 6-4.

It is great to see them achieving success right now, especially given the fact that their home tournament, the inaugural Indian Open, is just around the corner.

Meanwhile, in the much anticipated encounter between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Joel Walker, the teenager he formerly mentored, the world champion endured little trouble and emerged victorious to the detriment of only one frame.

2005 world champion Shaun Murphy did even better, whitewashing amateur Christopher Keogan to ensure he didn’t make it a sorry hat-trick of defeats under this flat 128 system.

Indeed, most of the heavy-hitters had little trouble with Barry Hawkins, Mark Allen, Stuart Bingham, Marco Fu, and Martin Gould all registering relatively comfortable wins.

Veterans Jimmy White and Steve Davis played well and also booked their flights to Chengdu.

The ‘Whirlwind’ came from 3-1 behind to reel off five frames on the trot and prevail 6-3, the ‘Nugget’ eased past Allan Taylor 6-2.

Irishman Fergal O’Brien knocked out David Grace while Oliver Brown, making up the numbers, was the only successful amateur on day one as he upset Nigel Bond 6-3.

One other considerable casualty was recently in-form Michael Holt, who went down 6-1 to Craig Steadman, and complained subsequently about the playing conditions.

With the use of fixed cameras at the Metrodome, it is a little difficult to fully quantify how many people turned up to the venue to watch the day’s action.

But by all accounts, both by the audio of the crowd and reports from a few in Barnsley, it sounded as though it was well supported – which is great, especially considering World Snooker took the decision to put both days on for free.

Today, Judd Trump begins his defence against Cao Xinlong while Irishmen David Morris and Ken Doherty face Stephen Maguire and Stuart Carrington respectively.

The likes of world no.1 Neil Robertson, Shanghai Masters champion Ding Junhui and John Higgins are also competing for the remaining 32 spots in China.

The full draw and results can be viewed by clicking here.

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